Sep 16, 2017

Wild Things: The Gay Art of Maurice Sendak

Adults like to think of childhood as a blissful Eden, a period of endless joy, unblemished by anxieties over money or sex or death.  But they're wrong.  Childhood is terrifying and painful, crowded with anxieties over money, sex, and death, dismemberment, abandonment, anger, friendship,  and desire.  Author and illustrator Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) inhabited this world better than any other writer.

He was gay, so several of his books can be read as the struggle of a gay child to make sense of the world, and two are about gay couples.

1. Where the Wild Things Are (1963): Max threatens to eat his mother, and while being punished, runs away to the world of the Wild Things.  He stares them down, becomes their king, and decrees that a Wild Rumpus begin. But he gets homesick and goes home. The 2009 movie added some hetero-romance, among the Wild Things, not Max (Max Records).  There have also been stage plays and a ballet.

2. In the Night Kitchen (1970). An amazingly vivid, scary story of Mickey, who sneaks out of his bed to a surreal night kitchen, where three chefs (all of whom look like Oliver Hardy) are making the breakfast "cake."  He helps them, meanwhile wondering about where his body ends and the natural world begins: "I'm in the milk and the milk's in me."

It has been banned in many schools because the toddler is naked -- don't want five-year olds knowing that five-year olds sometimes have a penis.

Sendak's art for adults often contains penises as well, but never to be salacious, to depict vulnerability rather than desirability.

3. We are All in the Dumps with Jack and Guy (1993) is a traditional nursery rhyme with a gay family twist.  Gay partners Jack and Guy find a little boy with "one black eye," a victim of bullying or abuse.  Jack wants to "knock him on the head," continuing the abuse, but Guy suggests that they buy him some bread instead, and "We'll bring him up as other folks do."

4. My Brother's Book (2012). Two brothers are torn apart when a falling star crashes to the earth.  It's a love letter to his partner of fifty years, psychiatrist Eugene Glynn, who died in 2007.  With beautiful watercolors inspired by William Blake.

Sep 15, 2017

The Culkin Brothers: Always Mistaken for Gay

Quick -- which of the Culkin brothers is this?

Hard to tell, isn't it?

The Culkin Dynasty began with Home Alone (1990), a Christmas movie about a young boy (10-year old Macaulay Culkin) accidentally left at home when his family goes away for the holidays.  The top film of the year, and the top-grossing live comedy of all time, it propelled Macaulay into child superstardom.

He grew up thin, pretty, and androgynous -- everyone assumed that he was gay -- with a heavy-lidded, world-weary, knowing expression that actors often use to denote depravity.

Who knew that there was a whole family of Culkins back home, including four boys who would all grow up thin, pretty, and androgynous, with the trademark world-weary, knowing expression.  I keep assuming that they're gay, and going to their movies, expecting them to play gay characters.  But they almost never do.

 1. Macaulay (born 1980).  No gay characters, but his Michael Alig identifies as gay in Party Monster (#6 on my list of the 10 Gay Movies I Hated).  He's more of a pansexual, anything-for-a-thrill decadent who almost Finds True Love with a girl.  Macaulay also played a handicapped decadent youth in Saved (2004), which has a gay character.

There's a sausage sighting story about Mac on Tales of West Hollywood.

2. Kieran (born 1982).   After a small part in Home Alone, he established himself as a talented actor, specializing in quirky indie movies like The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (which sounds like it is gay-themed, but isn't) and Igby Goes Down (which sounds gay themed, but isn't; I walked out after seeing the homophobic portrayal of a bi drug dealer).  Kieran also played the world-weary, knowing gay roommate in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010).

3. Shane, born 1986.  Not into acting.

4. Christian, born 1987.  Not into acting, though he played Kieran's brother in It Runs in the Family (1994).

5. Rory, born 1989. He's grabbing up all of the quirky indie movies that Kieran turns down, such as Mean Creek (which is about bullying but has no gay characters) and Chumscrubber (which I keep getting mixed up with the gay-themed Borstal Boy).  In The Night Listener (2006), his character, who bonds with gay radio host Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams), should be gay but isn't.

Answer: Rory.

Sep 14, 2017

Hi, Guy!: Cruising in a 1970s TV Commercial

Between 1969 and 1972, and then again in 1978, Right Guard deodorant aired a series of commercials in which an unsuspecting apartment dweller (Bill Fiore) opens his medicine chest, only to discover he's sharing it with the apartment next door.

The other occupant (Chuck McCann) opens his side of medicine chest.  He's big, brash, leering, apparently high.  I remember them both being shirtless, but I guess they weren't.

"Hi, guy!" McCann says, obviously cruising the uncomfortable Fiore, before extolling the wonders of Right Guard (which seems unnecessary, since Fiore already uses it).

By the way, the medicine chests contain nothing but two cans sticks of Right Guard deodorant, facing with the labels out regardless of which side they're on.

"Hi, guy!" became a catchphrase.  Everyone at Denkmann Elementary School tried to match Chuck McCann's intonation and leer, without realizing that we were imitating a gay pick-up line.

Bill Fiore was a cute, unassuming comedian of the 1970s.  He appeared on The Corner Bar, which had the first ongoing gay character on tv, Love, American Style, Mary Tyler Moore, Laverne and Shirley, Three's Company, and Alice.  

As this photo suggests, he had quite a nice physique.

Former children's show host Chuck McCann was also a comedy staple of the 1970s.  One of his more interesting roles was W.C. Fields in the 1982 biopic Mae West. He's played Santa Claus several times, notably in an ongoing role on the soap Santa Barbara (1987-88).

No indication that he was gay, or intended a gay reading to his leering "Hi, guy!"

But it's impossible to say without an innuendo.  Try it.

See also: The Eastwood Insurance Cowboy
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